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Bang & Olufsen Earset 3 Headphones Review

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B&O’s first iPhone-compatible headset

Apple claims to have re-invented the phone. But in doing so, they also re-invented the integrated headphone as well. The iPhone’s extra long headphone jack enables one plug to support stereo music, a microphone, and a click controller. With Apple’s new headset standard launched, Bang & Olufsen improved upon a previous generation Earset model to provide support and compatibility for the iPhone with the launch of the Earset 3.

EarSet3EarSet3

First Glance
At first it’s hard not to notice the industrial looking metal design of the Earset 3. But there is a subtle behind-the-neck wiring design which also sets it apart. While most headphone wires connect in the front and often dangle across your chest, the Earset 3 designer’s cleverly shortened up the wiring between the left and right earbuds. Initially I thought it was cumbersome to drape the wires around the back of my neck, but once I got used to it, I realized it was much less obtrusive. Also, the shorter wiring made untangling them easier and the included leather case was a nice touch.
Earset3-case
Craftsmanship
The earbuds themselves are much wider in diameter and deeper than the regular iPhone earbuds. The ear clips and the height-adjustable metal risers make it easy to position the earbuds in place. The over-the-ear clips did a great job of preventing the earbuds from popping out while walking or moving around. This was a tremendous advantage over the Apple’s earbuds which consistently popped out.

Micophone quality
The microphone is embedded in the circular click-controller, which hangs closer to your face than Apple’s stock earset. My call recipients told me that I sounded slightly clearer when I used the Earset 3. But I am not sure if it was because the microphone lays closer to my mouth, or if B&O has a more sensitive microphone. However, on a windy day in San Francisco, recipients noted just as much background noise regardless of which earbuds I used.

Click Controller
Just like the stock iPhone earset, the Easet 3 performs the same single click (pause/call swap) or double click (next track) functions. The button on the Earset 3 is larger and a little bit easier to click. Otherwise nothing new to report on this front. It worked just fine.

EarSet3EarSet3

Sound Quality
The main reason to consider buying the Earset 3 is that it unequivocally sounds better than Apple’s stock earbuds. The Earset 3’s sound quality can be described as detailed and crisp, but with limited bass. I often heard musical notes that Apple’s stock earbuds never revealed. But quickly the question becomes how much better, and how do they compare to other iPhone earsets on the market? At the $199 price point their is respectable competition from Audio-Technica, Etymotic Research, or V-MODA

While I didn’t have the competitors on-hand, I have tried almost all of the other brands at the CES or CEDIA trade shows. Maybe it’s my ears, but I could never seem to get a good fit using the in-ear headphones. In that respect the Earset 3 is more versatile, because you don’t need to be concerned with the in-ear seal or mess with foam inserts. On the other hand, the in-ear models can sound better if you have the patience to ensure a proper sealed fit and don’t mind sticking something deep in your ear canal. However, the Earset 3’s were satisfying from the second I put them on.

Final Thoughts
At $199, the Earset 3’s are now equal to the cost of the new 3G iPhone. Although, the Earset 3 may be a status symbol to those who revere the B&O brand, or a fashion statement to others who just like the design. Either way you’ve got yourself a great headset that simply sounds great.

Pros Cons
  • Unique design
  • Sturdy build quality
  • Detailed, crisp sound
  • Don’t pop-out
  • Less likely to tangle
  • Limited bass response
  • Design may not appeal to all

Brian Mitchell
Founder & CEO
eCoustics.com

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Editorial Disclosure:
The views and opinions expressed are solely that of the author. Every effort was made to insure fair, accurate, honest, and reliable reporting. The headset was provided on loan from Bang & Olufsen.

At the time of publication the manufacturer was not a current advertiser, had never purchased advertising, and has no known intent to start advertising on eCoustics.com. The author affirms he and all immediate family members are neither shareholders, partners, investors, subsidiary, consultant, contractor, agency, or affiliate of the manufacturer.

Product Update
This product was replaced by the Bang & Olufsen Earset 3i on June 2011, which mainly adds a microphone and music click controls into the cable for iPhone.

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